With so much going on in our lives today it is easy to forget and overlook who and what we are truly grateful for. It can be challenging to focus on what we are grateful for when we are feeling overwhelmed, dissatisfied or disgruntled.
During difficult times, it’s easy to lose sight of the positive aspects of our lives and focus solely on what’s going wrong. This can be because negative things feel bad and demand our attention. For example, focusing on the stressful aspects of your job when you are at home will make you miss a beautiful sunset or a great programme on the television.
Also, the more we focus on an issue, whether negative or positive, the greater the impact it will have on our lives. Ask yourself whether you see more positives or negatives in your daily life and how do you feel as a result of your thinking.
Consequently, there is a great deal to be gained from paying attention to what is good in our lives, especially during more difficult times. A positive outlook can help you to cope better with stressful situations and can change your life for the better.
The field of positive psychology has established a link between gratitude and health. People who practice being grateful experience “greater levels of optimism, positive mood and feelings of belongingness, psychological well-being, fewer illnesses and spend more time exercising.
These traits that coincide with gratitude contribute to physical and mental health, a stronger immune system, and fewer diseases.
The Wall Street Journal reported 23 November. “Gratitude provides a cornucopia of physical, mental, and emotional benefits, but Thanksgiving should be more than a once-a-year event in your life if you want to reap the rewards.” Dr. Sharp; aka Dr Happy, is one of Australia’s leaders in positive psychology and happiness.
According to him, people with a healthy sense of well being have more self-confidence and friends, and they make more effective leaders. Therefore, it pays to be thankful for one’s life and accomplishments.
Frequently feeling grateful for the good things in your life has been shown to give you more energy, optimism, social connections, and happiness.
Grateful adults also are less depressed, envious, and greedy, less likely to have substance abuse problems, earn more money, sleep better, exercise more, and are more resistant to viral infections.
Make gratitude part of your daily life
Recognizing others for what they have done for you, even the small acts of kindness, is necessary even when the person is family or a close friend.
Say “Thank You” for every act of kindness received. It’s so simple to say and yet so often taken for granted. It’s especially true when it comes to your own family members.
Express your gratitude and appreciation often. Take the time to write a note or send an email even if you already said thank you. Send a gift to show your appreciation for someone’s help.
Look for opportunities to reciprocate favours as soon as possible. Be observant and give service instead of asking if help is needed.
Count your blessings instead of wishing for more and moping about what you don’t have. Start a gratitude Journal, record a list of things you are thankful for and you will be amazed at all you have to be grateful for. Experiencing gratitude is closely tied to being happy.
Provide ways to support others who are less fortunate. You never know when the tables might be turned one day.
How to Practice gratitude?
Practice, practice, practice. Like anything else, the more we practice, the better we get at it. So start your practice to notice all the things you feel grateful for no matter how small or large they may be. It could be anything from noticing someone greeting you with a smile or a good tasting cup of coffee or juice.
Simply sit somewhere where you are not undisturbed. Think of anything you have such as a roof to sleep under, running water, electricity, ability to read etc.
Do not compare yourself to others but recognize that not everyone has these comforts available to them.
Pay more attention to things you are thankful for. Say thank you in your mind or out loud.
Start a gratitude journal in which to record what you are thankful for. This way you can consciously recall all the things you are grateful for each dayMaking a conscious effort to talking about what you are grateful for and who deserves credit rather than focusing on all the bad things that happened in your day.
Learn to avoid negative words and criticisms.
Being a grateful person is also socially advantageous since most of us enjoy and to be around people who are positive hence happy.
Fortunately, a positive attitude can be cultivated, with a little practice. Although we are born with specific temperamental tendencies, the brain is a muscle, and you can strengthen your mind’s natural tendency toward optimism you work at it.
Focusing on things we are thankful for is important since what we pay attention to grow in importance. For example, if we think of a happy childhood memory, it can bring a smile as oppose to thinking of a situation where someone provoked you may lead you to feelings of anger. When we spend time thinking about positive situation or things we are grateful for, we can experience a more positive mood in return. Noticing things that make you are grateful for will automatically increase your feelings of pleasure and appreciation.
Thinn Aung is a counsellor with the Employee Assistance Programme of the Cayman Islands. For more information about the programme, please call 949-9559.